Jazz learning slowly against Spurs Print
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Thursday, 24 May 2007 12:43
NBA Headline News

 SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -The lessons for Deron Williams in his first playoffs have been gradual.
The Houston Rockets were an early test, which Williams passed by helping lead the Utah Jazz back from a 2-0 series deficit. The midterm was against the Golden State Warriors and Williams and the Jazz survived again, despite some defensive lapses in all five games.
The San Antonio Spurs, however, have been like a final exam that the Jazz forgot was coming. Williams and his teammates are cramming to come up with some quick answers against the Spurs, who lead the Western Conference finals 2-0.
``They're going to run a play until we can stop it. If they find something that works, they're going keep running it until we can stop it and they can do different things off of those plays,'' Williams said.
The Spurs have been several steps ahead of the Jazz for much of the first two games, especially in the second quarter when San Antonio dominated and was able to just about coast the rest of the way.
San Antonio has had the poise that Utah's young players are trying hard to develop. The Jazz returned to practice Thursday after having Wednesday off to recover from a 105-96 loss in Game 2.
The series resumes Saturday night in Salt Lake City, where the Jazz haven't lost in the playoffs. Then again, they haven't been playing the Spurs.
``They move hard. They move with a purpose and they get the ball where it needs to go,'' Williams said.
Williams has had a difficult time slowing down San Antonio point guard Tony Parker, who is averaging 19 points and 10 assists through the first two games. Williams has averaged 30 points and 9.5 assists, but he and the rest of the Jazz have played woeful defense as the Spurs shot 55 percent in the first two games.
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Parker have given the Jazz fits in trying to figure out who to focus on stopping. Coach Jerry Sloan would like to see his players pick one of them and stop them, or at least slow them down a little.
Relying on a teammate to cover after a defensive breakdown hasn't been working.
``Everybody wants to get help. Isn't that amazing? The way this world is, sometimes you've got to help yourself, first,'' Sloan said. ``Our team has got some talent, but there's a talent in fighting back. There's always a talent in that.''
The Spurs also haven't been at all rattled, even as the Jazz rallied late to make both games a little closer. Williams said there was no finger pointing among the Spurs even after the Jazz had cut the lead to seven points on Tuesday.
Williams also said that overcoming this deficit is a much bigger challenge than coming back to beat the Rockets in seven games in the opening round.
``They have championships. They've been here. They know how to close out a team,'' Williams said. ``We're fighting against all odds right now. Hopefully we can try to even things up at home.''
Sloan is challenging his players to fight back and salvage something, maybe even turn this into a competitive series.
Utah shooting guard Derek Fisher has been in this situation before. He was a member of the Lakers three years ago when the Spurs took a 2-0 lead in the conference semifinals, then Los Angeles rallied to win the series after getting a little tougher.
``We did get a little physical. We didn't hurt anybody. There were no dirty plays, there were no flagrant fouls, but we did send the message that we're not going to let you come into our paint time and time again,'' Fisher said. ``Coach Sloan is as tough as they come. That's not the message he's sending us right now. That's the message he's been sending us all year.''

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